As many of you know I became a mama earlier this year and have spent the last several months on maternity leave. I checked out for a while... a good while, but now I'm back and starting over.
Starting over feels great and chaotic at the same time. I feel like a beginner again in so many areas of my life, from how to organize my workday with a baby at home to regaining the physical strength I lost during pregnancy and the early postpartum weeks. I may have given birth to a baby but so often I feel like I also gave birth to myself and I’m the newborn navigating my new world. I’m in what we Martha Beck Coaches call, “Square One.” It’s being in the middle of major transition, where one part of me has died and a new part of me has been born.
The motto for Square One: I don’t know what the hell is going on, and that’s okay. So true.
The hardest thing for me to remember while being in Square One is to be kind to myself. My M.O. through much of my life has been to PUSH my way through transition and to WORK HARDER to make it easier. I fought the change and – trust me – pushing and fighting never made it easier. I only became more and more exhausted, and then I’d view the exhaustion as some sort of failure because I couldn’t hack it and work as hard as so-and so. I made myself into a failure before I even truly began. I also missed the beauty of the transition. Yup – beauty. Even though every one of my transitions (including my current one!) can feel like an ugly train wreck, there’s beauty in being a newborn all over again.
The beauty lies in treating my newborn self GENTLY.
I try to be gentle, for instance, when I step on the scale and see that it hasn’t gone down, when I try a yoga pose I once mastered and can’t do it, when my mind questions whether or not I can work at home and be a good mama, or when the day ends and it feels like more was added to my to-do list than taken off.
Being gentle with myself starts with one conscious deep breath when I recognize self-judgment. I try to focus only on that breath and use it to help me move into the present moment.
I’ll then ask myself, “What is my reality in this moment?” The scale didn’t go down. Okay – it didn’t go down. As much as my mind wants to judge what the scale tells me, the reality is that the number is not good or bad. It just is. I’ll then say to myself, “Gentle, be gentle. You’re doing awesome.” I try to think of what I would say to my best friend, or my daughter, or someone who is just getting started at something and then I say it to myself.
I also give my newborn self a lot of PATIENCE. I can tell you right now that patience goes flying out the window if my mind starts to get judgy about the scale or the yoga pose or whatever might be on the to-do list that’s not done. Thoughts like, “This shouldn’t be so hard” or “People are going to think I suck” open the door for stress and anxiety to come rushing in. When I lack patience I’m fighting or pushing against my reality in some way. With patience I can see that the situation is not supposed to be any different than it is... because it isn’t.
Moving through any major transition starts with one teeny tiny baby step – that’s it. That step might be practicing being in the present moment. It might be remembering to be kind to myself. It might also be calling a coach or a friend. After I take a teeny tiny baby step forward I celebrate! Just like I would for an actual baby taking her first step. I mean, what’s the difference, really?
If you are going through some form of life transition right now - whether it's becoming a parent, changing jobs, divorce, illness, or loss – I give you this: YOU TOO ARE A NEWBORN.
Treat yourself gently, with kindness and patience. Recognize if you’re fighting becoming a newborn again.
If you discover thoughts of self-judgment or frustration then start with one deep breath and use it to help you move into the present moment. Think of what could be the kindest thing you could say to yourself in the moment (or even right now for that matter).
Create a word or a phrase that reminds you to be gentle. This could be as simple as “gentle” or “one step at a time” and repeat it to yourself.
Recognize your teeny tiny baby steps (even if they look like a drunken sailor and you promptly fall down) and cheer like hell when you take them because you ARE doing it. You’re moving through Square One as any newborn does: One baby step at a time.
I’d love to hear from you and to start a conversation. Post your Square One below and how you’re going to remind yourself to be gentle, kind or patient.